Amber Hill knows ‘mentor’ late grandad will be proud whatever happens in Tokyo
The pair had shared a remarkable sporting odyssey since Hill was invited to have a go on the local shooting range for the first time at the age of 10, beginning a steep trajectory to the top of her sport.
Rogers died in June 2019 after a period of ill-health and Hill, who is set to head to the Tokyo Olympics – which begin in 100 days’ time – after landing a quota place in her skeet discipline in Delhi in March, will never have him far from her mind.
Hill told the PA news agency: “My grandad wasn’t just my grandad, he was my biggest fan and my mentor from the first day I picked up a gun.
“Regardless of the good or bad days, he just wanted me to push myself to see how far I could get, and when I got to the Olympics in Rio it was a dream come true that he was able to be there with me.
“He told me he’d be looking down on me every step of the way, and I feel like I’m doing it for the both of us. I don’t feel any extra pressure at all, because I know whatever happens he will be proud of me.”
Hill’s rapid ascent in her sport saw her named in the British senior team at the age of just 12, and go on to become the youngest winner of a shooting World Cup title three years later.
But she believes it is the enforced respite from the spotlight due to the coronavirus pandemic that has helped her recalibrate her sporting ambitions and ultimately pave the way for an Olympic return in Japan.
“I’d been working so hard to secure that quota place in Tokyo, and when everything was cancelled it was so hard knowing it was going to be another year before I would get my opportunity,” Hill added.
I've been able to train a lot harder and I've focused more on everyday life - I've bought a house and got a puppy.
“But, looking back, I feel like after 13 years of continuous shooting, having a year off has only done me good. I’ve been able to train a lot harder and I’ve focused more on everyday life – I’ve bought a house and got a puppy.”
Hill, now 23, has also developed a novel way of simulating the pressure of competition, by establishing a rewards-or-consequences regime in training in a bid to recreate the high-profile environment of a major Games.
It clearly worked, with Hill grasping her first chance to seal the quota place – which almost certainly ensures her own selection – in Delhi when she won a gold medal shoot-off with a joint world-record score.
“Whatever reward I set, my competitiveness just comes out,” Hill explained. “One day I had to hit a certain target and I’d get a milkshake. I got the milkshake, but another occasion I missed and had to pay £30 to charity.
“I feel like I’m in a totally different head-space now since those early days, when everything came so quickly and it became quite difficult to cope with the pressure of it all.
“I’ve really settled into the sport and I can go into these big occasions like in India knowing I’ve been there and seen it all before, and if do what I know I can do, it will be OK.
“That’s the kind of mentality I will be taking with me to Tokyo. It is all about concentrating on the milkshakes, not the gold medals.”